Read enough stuff on parenting adult children and you come across some insightful tidbits. A life coach in California, Tracey Barnes Priestley, was answering a reader query about how to avoid feeling the pain from a grown child's trials and tribulations. The reader wasn't talking about major sources of anguish--divorce, death of a spouse, a child's debilitating illness. She was asking about feeling calmer about the lesser ups and downs of her grown child's life.
Tracey had a 5-point plan to deal with the problem. (Here's a link to the full story). But more than the plan, what struck me was her over-arching message--and one that's on my Notes to Self: Keep up your own interests.
Tracey put it this way: "My best advice? Support your adult children in a manner that is healthy and positive while spending the bulk of your time and attention creating your own best life!"
Not only can that help keep the worry-warts at bay but it gives us something to add to any conversation we have with our grown children. They really don't want a constant focus on them and what they're doing all the
What if they're struggling with major problems? A new University of Michigan study provides insights on the affect of children's problems on their parents.
To assess parental reactions, Kira Birditt, a researcher at the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research, and her colleagues conducted a daily diary study of 197 middle-aged parents. Among the parents in the study, 60 percent reported having at least one adult child with a problem, and 34 percent reported that all of their adult children had at least one problem.
The parents reported their interactions with adult children for seven consecutive days and also provided saliva samples at different times during the study. This allowed the research team to assess daily fluctuations in cortisol levels, a widely used marker of stress.
Researchers examined the parental affect when children face two types of common problems. One set of problems involved physical-emotional difficulties that included physical and mental health problems and developmental disabilities. The other was lifestyle-behavioral problems that entailed financial trouble, drug and alcohol abuse, trouble with the law, and serious relationship trouble — such as divorce.
Here's what Birditt reports finding: “Interactions with adult children who had physical or emotional problems had more immediate, same-day associations with cortisol whereas interactions with adult children with lifestyle or behavioral problems resulted in more delayed, or next day, associations.”
The findings have implications for parents trying to manage their distress. Those with adult children who have lifestyle and behavioral problems "may want to focus on learning effective coping strategies for reducing stress they already have," the research notes. "In contrast, parents of adult children with physical and emotional problems may spend more time anticipating problems and may benefit from strategies to help prevent stress.”
Another way for parents to reduce the stress of negative interactions with children who have problems is to attempt to balance these interactions with positive encounters, which buffer the harmful effects. “If you have a conversation that makes you feel irritated, hurt, or annoyed, try to follow it with one that makes you feel good,” Birditt said.
The study appears in the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology.